HARARE - In a sensational claim, a veteran journalist and former publicist to music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi says President Robert Mugabe bought the influential music maestro’s loyalty by showering him with expensive gifts so that he would desist from criticising the nonagenarian.
In his newly-released book on the legendary musician, whose lyrics are well-known for their biting socio-political commentary, Shepherd Mutamba claims that Mugabe gave the 62-year-old music icon an expensive state-of-the-art studio equipment five years ago, among other gifts.
The book is titled Tuku Back Stage and was launched at the Book Café in Harare last Saturday, by Mutamba.
“In October 2010, Tuku accepted a gift of US87 000-worth of state-of-the-art studio equipment directly from the President.
“He (Tuku) told me about the gift and showed me the equipment that he kept under lock and key, right in his office and not in the storeroom,” Mutamba says in the book which has raised the ire of Mtukudzi.
Before delivery of the state-of-the-art studio equipment to Tuku, the president and his wife Grace had also contributed $5 000 towards the funeral expenses of the world-famous musician’s son, Sam, who died in a tragic car accident in March 2010.
Mutamba also claims that Tuku had accepted free advertising in lickspittle State media that had been arranged by politicians to announce Sam’s memorial service, against Mutamba’s advice.
“I (Mutamba) strongly advised Tuku against taking gifts from politicians. I actually sat on the advert for two days and did not take it to the (information) minister until Tuku read me the riot act,” the music legend’s former publicist says.
Mutamba, the former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) editor-in-chief added that the First Family had hosted a “bountiful three-course dinner” for 300 guests in September 2012, on the occasion of Tuku’s 60th birthday.
“The catering itself was done by the First Lady’s (Grace’s) own people from State House. The meal contained a starter of mixed vegetable salad and the main course comprised braised brisket, Cambridge Sausage stew, roasted chicken with peri-peri sauce and pan-fried trout served with fruity sweet chili sauce, plus braised jasmine rice, boiled jasmine rice, oven-roasted potatoes and oven-baked cinnamon with honey butternut and glazed mixed vegetables,” he writes.
Mutamba further quotes The Herald newspaper saying: “There was plenty of food reminiscent of the mound of food in Chinua Achebe’s (novel) Things Fall Apart, where relatives only got to see each other after eating half the food. Drinks ranged from 100% juices to whiskey…”
After the flurry of expensive gifts from the First Family, Tuku had “stopped all political criticism, satire and metaphor” targeted at Mugabe and his misrule.
According to Mutamba in Tuku Back Stage, Tuku had until these gifts stayed clear of propaganda musical galas that are regularly held by the ruling Zanu PF party — but that this had all changed in 2011 when the internationally-celebrated music icon joined other artistes during that year’s Independence Day celebrations.
As part of his new cosy relationship with the First Family, Tuku had, together with all artists from his Norton-based Pakare Paye Arts Centre, also performed at a Christmas party at an orphanage run by the First lady in Mazowe in December 2012.
The music superstar’s relationship with the Mugabes also appeared to have been strengthened further by the growing friendship between Tuku’s wife Daisy and the first lady.
In an interview with Mutamba, Daisy had warmly showered the first lady with praises.
“The first lady is… a very hardworking person, even though people say this and that about her. Grace has the same business mind as me. She is a woman of principle and she is not lazy. I like her, she likes me too,” Mutamba quotes Daisy saying in the book.
Given the blossoming friendship between Grace and Daisy, Tuku had also performed at the 2010 wedding of Russell Goreraza, the first lady’s son from a previous marriage before she hooked up with Mugabe.
Mutamba also believes that Tuku is now firmly in bed with the First Family, to the extent that the music superstar could no longer be expected to criticise Mugabe’s excesses and those of the ruling party and government.
“Artists who subordinate themselves to political whims cannot be the voice of the people. We can now look up only to Thomas Mapfumo, who has not faltered on political criticism and resistance.
“That is why he will be remembered as a true hero of the people’s political struggle. They do not call Mapfumo the ‘Lion of Zimbabwe’ for nothing,” Tuku’s former publicist says.
When the Daily News serialised a few chapters from Tuku Back Stage last year, the music icon threatened to sue Mutamba if he went ahead with the publication of the book.
Efforts to get comments from Tuku yesterday were unsuccessful. He is currently on a tour of Europe and North America.